Graduate School of Public Health at University of Pittsburgh Receives $1.6 Million Grant to Train Public Health Workers
PITTSBURGH, September 27, 2000 — A federal grant of $1.6 million to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) will help public health workers throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania upgrade their professional skills through the school. The GSPH is one of eight accredited schools of public health from across the United States to receive a grant and a designation as a Public Health Training Center by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"One of the most exciting things about the Public Health Training Center program is that this is the first time that HRSA has directed funds toward worksite-based training of the existing workforce instead of toward school-based education," explained Margaret A. Potter, J.D., associate dean for public health practice at GSPH and director of the new Public Health Training Center.
"Only about 20 percent of the half-million public health professionals in the U.S. have a formal public health education, so these grants will go a long way toward helping them do a better job. The goal of this program is to assure high-quality performance of public health agencies."
The GSPH will operate the Central Appalachian Public Health Training Center. Working with Ohio State University, Ms. Potter and her staff will develop on-site and distance-based training programs with a focus on underserved areas. Efforts will focus on providing workers with basic and specialized public health education; improving their ability to interpret and make decisions based on available public health data and information; increasing their understanding of emerging public health issues such as bioterrorism, behavioral and mental health, domestic and societal violence and environmental health issues; and developing internship programs for public health graduate students.
One area of focus will be training public health professionals to be more culturally attuned to the values, attitudes and beliefs held by poor and minority audiences. Improving the ability of the public health workforce to communicate with underserved populations is likely to result in more effective public health services for these audiences, according to Ms. Potter.
Public health professionals are a key force in the health care safety net, yet they often go unnoticed. Working out of state, county and city health departments, they ensure the safety of air and water, inspect restaurants and nursing homes, monitor and report disease outbreaks and educate people about healthy habits that prevent disease. Some also provide primary health care services, immunizations and sexually transmitted disease counseling, testing and treatment.
More than 1.4 million Pennsylvanians live in areas with a shortage of health professionals, and two million live in areas designated as medically underserved, according to Ms. Potter. These individuals are likely to be minorities, poor and poorly educated, and many have no means of transportation to health care services. Eleven percent of Ohioans live in poverty, particularly those in the rural southeastern region.
"Our program will have a significant impact in strengthening the public health infrastructure in Ohio and Pennsylvania, especially in areas where resources for recruiting highly skilled workers or for providing in-house training have been low," Ms. Potter said. "Together, all eight training centers will make a remarkable difference in public health services around the country."
Established in 1948, the GSPH at the University of Pittsburgh is world-renowned for contributions that have influenced public health practices and medical care for millions of people. It is the only fully accredited school of public health in Pennsylvania and is one of the top-ranked schools of public health in the United States. For more information about the GSPH, please see http://www.publichealth.pitt.edu.